Exclusive: Heroin addicts to be given free foil to help them kick their habit

New law a ‘positive step’ in reducing number of lives ruined by drugs

Deputy Political Editor

Heroin addicts are to be given free foil - to heat up the drug - in an effort to help them kick the habit and cut the risk of contracting disease, the Government will announce tomorrow.

They will be offered the foil to encourage them to inhale, rather than inject, class A substances, as part of programmes to tackle their addiction.

Addicts use aluminium foil to warm heroin and breathe in its fumes in a practice nicknamed “chasing the dragon”. Substances such as crystal meth and cocaine can be inhaled in the same way.

Critics will raise questions over any move that enables drug users to maintain their habit, but the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) concluded last year that offering foil can help an addict’s eventual recovery.

Providing aluminium foil is safer than addicts buying “tin foil” used in cooking as that contains vegetable oil which can be toxic when breathed in.

Health experts also argue that smoking heroin stops users contracting blood-borne viruses like HIV and hepatitis B through shared needles, cuts damage to veins and soft tissue and reduces the risk of overdose.

Video: Clegg argues an attitude to drug prevention is needed

An order will be laid in Parliament on Friday to sweep away the ban on health professionals issuing free foil on the condition that it is provided within programmes to tackle addiction.

The change in the law, which currently prohibits the supply of “articles to be used for the preparation or consumption of illicit drugs”, will come into force next month. It will apply both to the National Health Service and privately run treatment centres.

Norman Baker, the Crime Prevention Minister, said the available evidence shows that providing foil did not encourage drug use, but spurred addicts to get help.

“By allowing foil to be legally provided by healthcare professionals we are taking another positive step in reducing the number of individuals, families and communities whose lives are destroyed by drugs,” the Lib Dem minister told The Independent.

“The decision was made on the condition that it is part of structured efforts to get individuals off drugs and will minimise the risk of spreading viruses like HIV, while encouraging more addicts to engage with support services.

“It is also part of a range of work the coalition government is doing to reduce and prevent illegal drug use – helping dependent individuals through treatment, educating young people about the risks and supporting law enforcement in tackling the illicit trade.”

The move comes amid signs that use of the most addictive substances is falling, particularly in younger age groups, among whom heroin use has fallen out of fashion as they switch to party drugs.

However, recent figures suggest almost 300,000 people in England still use heroin and crack cocaine, with 529 deaths in England and 46 in Wales in 2012 linked to heroin.

Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst at Transform, the drugs policy charity, said: “It is much safer to be smoking heroin than injecting it. This is a sensible harm reduction intervention when you are trying to get people to transition from a more dangerous way of using heroin to a less dangerous way.”

The ACMD had been examining the case for providing foil for since 2009. Twelve months ago it called for the move to take place, a recommendation that was accepted by the Home Secretary Theresa May.

She approved its conclusions as long as foil is “only offered by drug treatment providers as part as part of structured efforts to get individuals into treatment, on the road to recovery and off of drugs”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power